Bystander Intervention

In an effort to reduce the risk of sexual harassment or sexual assault, Michigan Tech utilizes a range of campaigns, strategies, and initiatives to promote awareness, education, risk reduction, and prevention programming and training.

Bystander engagement is highly encouraged through safe and positive intervention techniques and by empowering third-party intervention and prevention such as calling for help, identifying allies, and/or creating distractions. Bystander intervention is also referred to as being an Upstander.

Steps You Can Take to Prevent Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault

Everyone has a role to play in prevention. There are many different ways that you can step in or make a difference if you see someone at risk.

The key to keeping others safe is learning how to intervene in a way that fits the situation and your comfort level. Having this knowledge on hand can give you the confidence to step in when something isn't right. Speaking up can make all the difference, but it should never put your own safety at risk.

Here are a few ways to Speak Up:

  • Create a distraction
  • Ask directly
  • Refer to an authority
  • Enlist others

Create a Distraction

Do what you can to interrupt the situation. A distraction can give the person at risk a chance to get to a safe place.

  • Cut off the conversation with a diversion like, "Let's get pizza, I'm starving," or "This party is lame. Let's try somewhere else."
  • Bring out fresh food or drinks and offer them to everyone at the party, including the people you are concerned about.
  • Start an activity that draws other people in, like a game, a debate, or a dance party.

Ask Directly

  • Talk directly to the person who might be in trouble.
  • Ask questions like, "Who did you come here with?" or "Would you like me to stay with you?"

Refer to an Authority

Sometimes the safest way to intervene is to refer to a neutral party with the authority to change the situation, like an RA or the management staff of your local hangout.

  • Talk to a security guard, bartender, or another employee about your concerns. It's in their best interest to ensure that their patrons are safe, and they will usually be willing to step in.
  • Don't hesitate to call 911 if you are concerned for someone else's safety.

Enlist Others

It can be intimidating to approach a situation alone. Enlist another person to support you.

  • Ask someone to come with you to approach the person at risk. When it comes to expressing concern, sometimes there is power in numbers.
  • Ask someone to intervene in your place. For example, you could ask someone who knows the person at risk to escort them to the bathroom.
  • Enlist the friend of the person you're concerned about, "Your friend looks like they've had a lot to drink. Can you check on them?"

Your Actions Matter

Whether or not you were able to change the outcome, by stepping in your are helping to change the way people think about their role in preventing sexual assault/violence. If you suspect that someone you know has been sexually assaulted, there are steps you can take to support that person.

To speak with someone who is trained to help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or chat online at online.rainn.org.

Source: Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)